How to Take a Road Trip with Your Dog

September 17, 2021
For Dogs

Road trips are such dreamy excursions. The open road. The new sights. The gas station coffee.

Ahhhh….we can’t think of anything better. Wait, yes we can!…. a road trip with our dogs!

But how do we plan for a road trip with our canine companion? Do we just stick them in a car and go? Or is it a more measured ordeal?

We’re going to answer those questions, and more, in the short guide below.

Plan a Pet-Friendly Route

One of the keys to any successful road trip (whether with dogs or without) is to plan your route around your needs. When you’re with your dog, however, this rule of thumb must be adjusted: instead, you’ll have to plan around both of your needs.

Before leaving your house, make sure you’re driving past plenty of rest stops that contain ample space for them to stretch their legs, go the bathroom, and play. Luckily, if you’re driving along major highways, you’ll probably find rest stops like these in abundance – the USA’s national highway system is very dog friendly, as it turns out.

That being said, right now a crucial element of being “pet friendly” includes safeguarding your four-legged friends from catching the Coronavirus.  To do that, you’ll need to avoid rest stops during peak busy hours to ensure you can maintain six feet of social distancing between you and other patrons. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your final destination is not a COVID hotspot, otherwise you risk making all of the precautions that you took, for naught.

Find Pet-Friendly Lodging

It seems like common sense. After all, why would you take your dog on a road-trip to a destination far away if that final destination wasn’t going to accommodate your dog?

Well, you’d be surprised how many people decide to play this game every day.

Don’t be like them. Plan to rest up for the night somewhere that is prepared to board you and your dog.

It’s not like you have to look very far, either. Plenty of top hotel chains such as Comfort Inn, Sheraton, Best Western, and Aloft Hotels are happy to provide pet-friendly stays for you and your dog.

If you’re looking for alternative sources for lodging outside of the mainstream, you can typically toggle a “pet-friendly” filter on sites like TripAdvisor or Airbnb to ensure you don’t accidentally end up staying somewhere with a “no shirt, no thumbs, no service” sign out front.

Practice, Practice, Practice

We know. It seems a bit…strange to imagine having to practice something as normal as taking your dog in the car. But we challenge you to remember how you felt about long car rides when you were a kid.

Is it coming back to you? Are you remembering lots of “are we there yet?”s and making up games to pass the time? Yeah, we thought so. Long car rides can actually be pretty grueling if you’re not mentally prepped for them.

Well, your dog needs to be prepped for them, too. Likewise, you need to gain experience with your dog in the car to learn their riding behaviors (how often they need to use the restroom, how often they need water, etc). Some dogs will act aggressively to loud noises such as a motor bike or 18-wheeler including charging at the car window, barking fiercely etc  It’s best to be prepared for this type of behavior in advance.

Take them for progressively longer car rides each day for up to one week before your trip, starting with a quick fifteen-minute jaunt around the neighborhood and building up from there in fifteen-minute increments.

To help ensure that this process actually helps make your pup feel more comfortable, make sure to end each trip with a positive experience for them. This can mean ending the ride at their favorite dog park, or even just giving them a treat at the end. The end goal here is to build positive associations in your dog’s mind with getting in the car.

Bring Proper Equipment and Documentation

Look, you wouldn’t go on any road trip without the right snacks, comfort boosters for our seat, paperwork, or entertainment sources, right?

So why would we expect that our dogs would be okay doing that?

If you’re going to make this a #bestroadtripever with your #bestfriendfurever, then you need to set them up for success by bringing along everything they need to be comfortable.

To start, let’s talk about food and water. Obviously, bring some. But you also need a place to put them.

While your car is likely already packed to the brim, you still need to make room for Fido’s food and water bowls. Luckily, plenty of pet care product manufacturers are aware of how much space traditional bowls take up and have created collapsible, car-friendly versions of them.

You should probably also try to keep your dog entertained for the duration of your ride. This is pretty easy to do. Just keep them chewing on something (a toy, not your car seats) while the car is in motion.  When you’re at a rest stop,  try to play a game with them such as fetch or tug of war. Remember: a tired dog is a well behaved dog!

And, while we’d hate to think of your furry friend ever getting into an accident or hurting themselves, it does happen. That’s why you need to prepare for the unexpected and bring a pet first aid kit.

This kit should include items such as scissors, adhesive tape, saline solution, gauze, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, any prescription drugs your dog needs, and 3% hydrogen peroxide. You may also want to include anti-nausea drugs in case your dog gets car sick.

However, sometimes medical emergencies pop up that can’t be handled effectively by the contents of a first aid kit. When that happens, you want to be able to pull out hard copies (no digital stuff for something this important) of your pup’s medical records and be able to make educated decisions about how to proceed.

Your dog’s medical records should include information about any conditions that are currently being treated, a list of their current medications, a list of their vaccinations, and the contact information of your primary veterinarian.

Finally, and this point is often unfortunately overlooked: do not ride with your dog loose in the car. Not only is this distracting, but they can get seriously hurt if you get into a wreck. Instead, opt to put them in a safer option like a properly-sized dog carrier or a car hammock. Really, just anything that will prevent them from sliding around on the floor. If you don’t want to think about some restraint for your dog then consider this. In the case of a collision, unless restrained by some means, your dog becomes a potential projectile!! This would be very bad news for both of you!

Alright, now that you’ve properly stocked your car for this trip, it’s time to get on the road!

Take Frequent Rest Stops

We know you want to be like Clark Griswald and get to your location as fast as possible and, honestly, your pet is probably the same way. However, you have to be patient with your dog when it comes to stopping if your trip is going to be enjoyable.

Normally, dogs have to use the restroom between every four and six hours. Expect this to increase in frequency while on the road, as your dog is likely to drink more water on account of feeling dehydrated in a hot car.

Honestly, it’s a good idea for you to stop and stretch frequently anyway. It’ll keep you alert behind the wheel and it’ll keep your dog from feeling too cooped up. Of course, you could be a super cool pet parent and take them way beyond just rest stops. That is, if you’re feeling up for it.

Take Your Dog on an Adventure

There’s a million different ways you can keep your road trip with your dog from getting monotonous. One of our favorites is to use the app “BringFido” to locate nearby dog parks and beaches. Think of this as the dog equivalent of finding a brewery or winery on the road – it gives them an opportunity to do some of their favorite activities alongside other friendly faces!

Also, for the more physically fit and daring, you can use the MyTrails app on your mobile device to locate different nature and hiking trails of various difficulties all across the country! (Pro tip: if you’re in Colorado, Utah, or Wyoming, the whole state is basically trails so go nuts!)

DoNot Leave Your Dog in a Hot Car. Ever.

We should not have to say this, but we will say it as many times as it takes to get people to stop risking their pet’s lives for nothing: leaving your dog in a hot car is a massive risk to their health. Literally hundreds of dogs die every year because their owners are careless enough to leave them in a sweltering vehicle.

To illustrate how awful this experience is for your dog, we’re going to tell you just a couple of the things that happen when your dog enters heat stroke. In the initial stages of this heat stress, your dog’s heart rate will increase and their blood pressure will drop precipitously, causing a loss of ability for your dog to regulate their body temperature.

Over a period of minutes, your dog’s vessels will succumb to thermal damage, causing his circulatory system to initiate blood clotting to try and repair them. At the same time, your dog will experience a loss of blood flow to vital organs like their kidneys, liver, and GI tract. This can cause a variety of horrific side effects including bloody vomiting, renal failure, or hypoglycemia.

Working in tandem, all of these events terminate towards one unfortunate destination if no one intervenes: the death of your dog.

Just don’t leave your dog in your car. It’s just not worth it.

However, do you know what is worth it? Learning whether or not certain summer snacks, like cucumbers, are actually a healthy treat that’s ideal to bring along for your dog on road trips, or if it’s something you should avoid. Find out the answer by clicking here.

We know that, as a responsible pet parent, you want to keep your pet happy and healthy. That’s why we hope you’ll continue coming back to our blog at!  We hope you found this article helpful.  If your dog ever gets any cuts, abrasions, ear infections or hot spots, we hope you keep Banixx Pet Care in mind.  Alternatively, we have a host of dog information on this page